Monday, October 31, 2016

Give yourself permission to write rubbish!

Photo courtesy of photostock/
I’m continually in awe of authors (some whom I regard as friends) who manage to keep churning out new material every few months. Besides the work ethic, the idea factory they have in their mind, I’m staggered how they manage to write a good story in their first draft. They must right? That or they don’t sleep or eat or do anything else.

It’s my dream to one-day reach that point. Be so good at my process and handle of the craft that I can deliver 80% of the story first time every time.

Practice makes perfect

Yep, we’ve all heard it. It’s true. And those authors that I’m referring to above have done the work. Yes they have.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for them. Many authors tell me that their latest manuscript is the hardest and through the wonders of social media we get to see their struggles to meet publisher deadlines.

Green with Envy

Comparison can be so debilitating if we allow ourselves to check our progress against those we admire. It can stop us writing, steal our zeal or freeze our writing mojo as we linger at the keyboard.

Acknowledge and encourage those we admire which will both give them an added boost but also nullify the green monster that sits on your shoulder.


God loves sharing in everything we do. Hey, He’s with us all the time so why not bring Him into all that you experience. It’s what I love about writing. As I tell people I’ve found writing to be a lot harder than any of the Corporate jobs I’ve had over the last thirty years. There’s something so special creating together with our Lord even if writing that first draft is like watching grass grow in the desert. I’m continually amazed how often an oasis arrives out of nowhere when all of a sudden a scene suddenly gels or your story takes a fabulous turn. Heck, there are times when I jump for joy at a “new” word that appears on the screen, one that I typically wouldn’t use.

“My #1 rule is write like no one is ever going to read it. Why? Because it gives you permission to be as audacious as you want.”

Tosca Lee wrote that. Tosca’s one of my favourites for sharing her writing process, boots and all. She’s a night owl and can write till the wee hours of the morning. I know this because often she pops up on FB asking whose awake and because I’m on the other side of the world it has to be some crazy hour when most people are sound asleep.

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”

William Faulkner said that. Get it down. I love that. Allow the Holy Spirit to weave His magic as you write.

Allow yourself to write a bad first draft. And hey, it’s really not that bad. It’s just the expectations you’ve placed on yourself.

Just think you now have something on the page that you can now play with the Lord and make some real magic together.

Fearful of that blank page staring at you? Join the club. All writers are. Trust in the Lord. He’s there with you, not just cheering you on but helping you with every word, every scene, character and story line.

Get it down!

Have fun in your playground with the Lord.


Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter


  1. I can see why people say the current manuscript is always the hardest. If we're continually learning, continually developing our writing craft, then we bring more and more background and knowledge to each manuscript, things we want to include and mistakes we don't want to make.

    It means we're continually developing our craft, and that's a good thing.

    Thanks for the encouraging words, Ian - and great to meet you on Saturday (however briefly).

    1. Great perspective, Iola. I'd never appreciated it from that angle before.

      Lovely meeting you too, Iola. I was hoping to have a longer chat with you but you were in great demand. Are you leaving our shores on Thursday? Hope you're getting lots of quality writing time with Andrea and the girls.

  2. Great post, Ian. So true. Thanks! I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but have done it in the past and love it because the writing is expected to be less than stellar - there's your permission right there :)

    1. Hi Paricia, I've never done NaNoWriMo before but I figure from what you've heard it's a great exercise in creating/consolidating your writing process/discipline.

      I really should do it one year.

      Thanks for popping on and saying hi.


  3. What great perspective you bring to this post, Ian. We authors can be our own worst critics - even more so when tired. (Never edit tired!)

    I also liked Iola's insight, being as we work on our craft, each new project involves adding that extra level of excellence, which of course forces us to work even harder before we're satisfied with the final product. Seeing a first draft with all its ugly and awkward elements being transformed in a cohesive, well edited product is extremely satisfying.

    BTW was great seeing you at the Omega Conference on Saturday. Thanks for saying hello.

    1. Thanks, Adele for popping on to say hello. Yes, we can be our own worst critics can't we? But there is such opportunity as the Lord guides us in all we write.

      Congratulations on your release, Adele. I liked how you presented it to us on Saturday.

  4. Ian, great post! The creative process isn't logical, and every book project brings its own unique challenges. I'm looking forward to reading your next release :)